3July2014 Tired

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired barely get the chores done

ScrabbleI win, by three points, and gets under 400. well done Mary,perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


David Gardner-Medwin – obituary

David Gardner-Medwin was a neurologist who radically improved life expectancy for boys suffering from muscular dystrophy

David Gardner-Medwin

David Gardner-Medwin

6:58PM BST 02 Jul 2014

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David Gardner-Medwin, who has died age 77, was a naturalist; an expert on Thomas Bewick, the 18th century Tyneside engraver; and a paediatric neurologist who specialised in muscular dystrophy.

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition which usually affects young boys and for which until recently there has been no effective treatment. In the 1970s progressive muscle wasting often resulted in death before teenage years and in some parts of the country a fatalistic approach was taken to the disease with little attempt to treat the symptoms.

Gardner-Medwin came to Newcastle in 1965 to work as a research fellow with Professor John, now Lord, Walton. There he set out to determine whether it was possible to detect which mothers carried the gene for muscular dystrophy by measuring electrical impulses from the muscles. As a result he spent long hours sitting with the mothers of disabled boys and was told of the many practical problems which affected their sons and how uncoordinated their care was. Such discussion spurred him to set up a multidisciplinary service with the child and the family at its centre.

The resultant clinic became an exemplar of how to manage muscular dystrophy, and in 2009 the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign produced the “Walton Report” which highlighted dramatic improvements in life expectancy for those patients treated in the way that Gardner-Medwin had set out. The report showed that the average age of death for muscular dystrophy sufferers in the north east of England had risen to 30 years. By contrast for those in the south west, for example, it was only 19. These figures led to Newcastle becoming a WHO reference centre for the muscular dystrophies.

David Gardner-Medwin was born in London on November 13 1936, the eldest son of the architect Robert Gardner-Medwin. His Canadian grandmother was the sister of John McCrae (who wrote In Flanders Fields) and Thomas McCrae, who was a colleague of the great physician Sir William Osler. David was, in fact, distantly related to Osler by marriage, and Osler (of whom he kept a signed photograph in his study) was to prove a great influence in his life.

He was brought up in Canada, Barbados and Edinburgh, becoming an avid bird watcher during his time at Edinburgh Academy. His first scientific paper, written while he was at King’s College, Cambridge, was a study of bird migration across the Pyrenees. His English grandmother gave him a copy of Bewick’s Birds for his 21st birthday – the start of a serious interest in book collecting and in Bewick.

After Cambridge, Gardner-Medwin trained at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Osler had insisted that doctors should not practise clinical medicine without understanding pathology, so Gardner-Medwin spent a year in this discipline. Yet it was neurology that fascinated him, and his ambition was to work in Newcastle under Walton and Henry Miller. After several years doing just that, he learned that Newcastle was looking for a paediatric neurologist. He duly trained in paediatrics with Donald Court, and then went to Boston on a Harkness Fellowship. On his return he was appointed as a consultant, for 20 years single-handedly serving a population of more than three million.

He did important research and wrote a paper noting that because muscular dystrophy is only diagnosed when boys are about four, two or three more boys might be born with the condition before the eldest was identified as a sufferer. This led Gardner-Medwin to suggest that a simple screening test should be added to the routine heelprick test that all babies have. This was not implemented as it was considered that, as there was nothing that could be done therapeutically to prevent the disease developing, it was not worthwhile. Now, with real therapeutic advances on the horizon, screening is once again being considered.

Gardner-Medwin, who worked in both paediatric and adult departments, was a superb clinician with great compassion who was always available for his patients and their families. But he avoided hospital administration wherever possible and retired at 60 to pursue his interests in the natural world. Almost immediately he immersed himself in a major public inquiry into the expansion of activities at the Otterburn military range in Northumberland, representing the Natural History Society, the RSPB and others. His meticulous attention to detail brought important concessions to the benefit of wildlife. Simply by suggesting that a massive gun was moved a few yards, he helped to prevent the efflux of acid into a small stream.

His love of Bewick occupied him throughout his life and he became the scholarly mainspring of the Bewick Society, editing the Society’s Bewick Studies of 2004 and writing an excellent account of Bewick’s personal library as well as many contributions to Cherryburn Times (Cherryburn being Bewick’s home close to the Tyne). He also undertook research into Bewick’s antecedents – based on forensically examined local source material – which was recognised by Bewick scholars as a major achievement. Recently some Bewick woodblocks came on the market, and Gardner-Medwin helped to ensure that they returned to the north east and to the archives of the Natural History Society.

He was a founder member and secretary of the British Paediatric Neurology Association.

David Gardner-Medwin is survived by his wife, Alisoun, and by a son and a daughter who is also a paediatrician.

David Gardner-Medwin, born November 13 1936, died 14th June 2014


In your front-page story, once again the business community is demanding more favours and accusing Labour of a swing to the left (Labour offers olive branch to business, 30 June). Since Mrs Thatcher, the top rate of tax has halved, corporation tax has come down to several points below the much more successful German economy and our union laws are now among the weakest in western Europe. But how have the businessmen of Britain responded? Well, GDP growth per year, averaged out at the end of each decade, comes out at about the same rate as for the last 50 years, our balance of payments went massively into deficit after a few years of Mrs Thatcher and gets worse by the year, unemployment has tripled since 1980 according to the ONS and the inequality index has gone off the radar.

We’re constantly told we must attract inward investment. We’re the seventh richest country in the world – don’t we have our own investment? Is the model useless, or the businessmen, or a mixture of the two? This problem is plainly bigger than the CBI’s predictable whingeing about even more supply-side measures.
David Redshaw
Gravesend, Kent

•  It’s sadly predictable that some leading Labour figures should be caught up in a discussion of who is blocking the road to reform, while it’s left to unions to be raising concerns about central government waste and private contractor failure (page 2), and the developing crisis in the NHS (page 4). Meanwhile, former Labour ministers attract attention to Prince Charles’s past penchant for lobbying them on his pet projects, and Ed Balls wastes time berating Cameron on EU matters (page 4). The clock is ticking towards the general election and it looks like many of the shadow cabinet have taken an early summer holiday, to avoid the crowds.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

• Listening to Ed Balls declaring his intention to run the railways on non-ideological lines (Beware the dead hand, 30 June), it became clear he is not simply guilty of “parking” good ideas but that he does not have any of his own. He seems to think public ownership would mean only a return to the centralised management systems of former British Rail and that the only alternative therefore is a continuation of competitive franchising “with a level playing field”. He should read Paul Salveson’s excellent Railpolitik: Bringing Railways Back to the Community (2013), which demonstrates with expertise and imagination how various forms of social ownership could be combined. It was rightly acclaimed by Maria Eagle, formerly shadow transport secretary, as setting out “an alternative vision for the future” to be read by any serious politician; but she was moved to environment, while Ed Balls’s “dead hand” could not have been more clearly displayed.
David Parker
Meltham, West Yorkshire

• I was astounded to read your editorial (30 June), in which you refer to John Armitt, Mike Wright, Michael Lyons and Richard Leese as “having done something or other a long way from Westminster”. This quite extraordinarily dismissive manner of referring to men who, whatever your opinion as to their individual careers, have manifestly made long and honourable contributions to civic governance and public service over many years (and largely outside the Westminster bubble, which you elsewhere profess to deplore) deserves an apology and explanation.
Sue Dalley
Malvern, Worcestershire

• Rafael Behr (Comment, 2 July) says the Labour party doesn’t know what radicalism is. It does know but, like the government, it rejects radicalism. Any party which wants to keep public sector pay frozen and retain the caps on benefits is against the interests of the working class. I am voting for independence in Scotland not just to be free from Cameron and Osborne but also from Miliband and Balls.
Bob Holman

• “Labour offers olive branch to business.” That’s the first thing that greets me in the Guardian. Reading on, I find that this is gleefully greeted by a crowing director of the CBI. After years as a union activist in “business”, I spent the last few years of my working life as a lecturer in a “business school”. I never had any doubt that the vast majority of people engaged in “business” are not the exploiters but the exploited. I would hope that a Labour party led by Ralph Miliband’s son would recognise that, and be committed to ending the capitalist racket once and for all.
Alan Harrison
Walsall, West Midlands

• “Labour offers olive branch to business.” What’s new? “Business offers olive branch to labour.” Now that would have been worth the ink.
Terry McGinn
Barrowford, Lancashire


Mr al-Baghdadi has proclaimed himself Caliph of Islam. So what? The title just means “successor” to the Prophet Muhammad: not an individual anointed like a king, or one blessed by divine sanction, as Catholics regard the Pope. The exalted sense of the title of Caliph developed in the Middle Ages, with Western Christians erroneously comparing Caliph to Pope: a notion which was eventually fed back to Islam.

The real caliphate was extinguished in 1258, when the Mongols sacked Baghdad. More recent attempts to claim the title were largely political manoeuvres, designed (as in Ottoman Turkey in the 1870s) to enhance the political lustre of the ruler.

Today people should not be taken in by fanciful movie-type images of the Caliph of Baghdad. Anyone who glances at Sir Thomas Arnold’s The Caliphate (1924, reprinted 1965) will be gratifyingly disillusioned.

Christopher Walker

London W14

Dr Stephen Malnik sees the emergence of Isis as part of “a global struggle between the forces of darkness and the forces of good” (letter, 2 July). That time-dishonoured piece of dualism has dominated human thinking for centuries.

And where has it got us? War after war, always with the promise that this will be the final battle that will sort out the “bad guys” once and for all. We need to get beyond this futile belief system to discover the unity in which our hope lies.

The first step is to see ourselves first and foremost as humans: sometimes we do wonderful things, sometimes terrible things, but we are still human beings anyway.

Simenon Honoré

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Prime Minister Netanyahu was quoted following the Israeli teenager funerals thus: “They sanctify death and we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty and we sanctify mercy.”

Thus far the Israeli response has been to kill several Palestinians (including children), detain hundreds, and unleash terror upon innocent civilians. Not a whimper from Western leaders who fall over themselves to condemn the murders of the Israelis but ignore the collective punishments now being meted out to the Palestinians.

Dr Shazad Amin

Sale, Greater Manchester

Robert Fisk (2 July) implies that all of Israel was built on Arab land. How does land become “Arab”? Does land have a voice of its own? Or is it because Arabs have lived on a certain piece of land for a certain amount of time. Watch out, Spain.

I live in Jerusalem, which has been conquered time after time over a period of 3,000 years. Jews were certainly here during those last 3,000 years and in all parts of present-day Israel, the West Bank and in Gaza as well. But then Christians and Muslims have also been here, together with the Greeks and Romans. Whose land is it? Fisk calling it Arab land is as legitimate as the right wing in Israel calling it Jewish land.

Avi Lehrer


Robert Fisk (30 June) is disgusted at the use by Bnei Brith Canada of terms such as “disease”, “contamination”, and “infection”, to describe the worrying phenomenon of anti-Semitism. He bemoans the fact that these terms were used by the Nazis against Jews.

Interestingly, Fisk has used the same terminology himself, referring to his wish “not to be contaminated by the war crimes of Israel’s pilots” (Voices, 20 November 2012), and when referring to Israel’s “cancerous threat of war” against Iran (24 November 2013).

The logic is as follows:  a Jewish organisation is wrong to use terms used by the Nazis, while he, Fisk, is at liberty to use these very “Nazi” terms when discussing Israel.

Yiftah Curiel

Spokesperson, Embassy of Israel, London W8


What would Scottish independence mean?

Alex Orr (letter, 2 July) wrote in favour of Scottish independence: “The choices before us are simple: we take charge of our own affairs in the EU…”

The choice is not as simple as he seems to think. Alex Salmond hopes to keep the pound, which means interest rates and monetary policy will be set by the Bank of England. He also hopes to join the EU, but all new members must adopt the euro, which means handing control to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

Whichever of the two currencies the Scots adopt, they will certainly not be taking charge of their own affairs; they will be surrendering one of their most vital interests either to a foreign country with 10 times their population or to a bloc of countries with 100 times their population. Good luck with that!

John Naylor

Ascot, Berkshire


The “No” campaign keeps saying that a Yes vote is a vote for Alex Salmond. It isn’t. A Yes vote is a vote which will enable the people of Scotland to decide how they wish Scotland to be run. After independence there will be fresh elections, for each of us to decide which political party we want to run Scotland.

The big difference is that we will no longer be forced by Westminster to accept policies we don’t agree with. In an independent Scotland, every decision will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland; that is, by those of us who live in Scotland. It really is that simple.

Carole Inglis

Harlosh, Isle of Skye


Scientist with a social conscience

It was Nigel Calder’s astonishingly extensive knowledge of the whole range of science, combined with an active social conscience, that made him such a successful science writer (obituary, 28 June). True, he enjoyed the role of maverick from time to time, as in the global warming debate, but underneath it was a deep concern for social issues. He was very much concerned with social aspects of science, with social justice, and the general direction that the world was taking.

This enabled him to operate as the press officer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and to articulate Harold Wilson’s “white heat of technology” policies. Latterly he described himself as a “romantic anarchist in the tradition of Kropotkin” (a distinguished scientist in his day). In a letter to me he dated his disillusion with politics to the mid 1960s, when he saw Harold Wilson’s “white heat of technology” policies come to nothing, and when CND “took its eye off the ball to agitate about Vietnam”.

In the 1990s, as the editor of a radical journal, The Raven, I was unexpectedly asked to edit an edition concerned with  the mounting rejection of scientific thinking by some sections of the left. I was in some difficulty. At the suggestion of his brother Angus I asked Nigel for help and was sent a sparkling 30-page essay covering the strength and weaknesses of science, the fate of some pet ideas and science as a motor of social change. Slightly tongue-in-cheek here and there perhaps, but much of that piece remains relevant today.

John Pilgrim

Yoxford, Suffolk


Voice of the  lost Cotswolds

Writing as one of the few natives left on the reservation who remembers  the Cotswolds “before banker and politician came”, may I thank Adam Sherwin for his honest reflection on how life is for the majority here (“Is the party over in Chipping Norton?” 28 June).

Few of us see any benefits from the financial parasites, politicos and wheeler-dealers colonising our homelands. As for seeing any of the Chippy Set mixing with us peasants, the only “celebrity” I have ever seen in Chipping Norton was Jeremy Clarkson, and sadly I was not quick enough to tell him how much I appreciated his social commentaries  and wit. Someone seeing Sam Cam shopping in Sainsbury’s? It must have been either something in the water or a decoy.

Marc Buffery

Upper Rissington, Gloucestershire

Strange noises at Wimbledon

Listening to BBC television commentators struggling to describe the noise made by Maria Sharapova as she plays (Is it a grunt? Is it a scream?), I recognised the sound as the bark of a fox. For my amusement, I entertain the illusion that the fox I hear in the fields of Norfolk is actually Maria herself; hunting for lost form, perhaps.

Robin Slatter

Hickling, Norfolk


Scholarly language?

Professor Stephen Caddick, Vice-Provost of University College London, certainly knows all the vice-cancellarial jargon (Letters, 1 July):  four occurrences of the word “deliver(s)”, two of “world-class”, and the use of “grow” as a transitive verb to mean “develop” or “enlarge”.  But I wonder if he has any idea what university education is for.

Nick Chadwick


The World Cup explained

Like Richard Pring (letter, 2 July) I too was puzzled by the rationale of the World Cup until a friend pointed out that “football is not a sport, it is a business”.

Angela Elliott

Hundleby,  Lincolnshire


Sir, That one extra case which Dr Mark Porter claims could turn his practice from excellent to worst performance (“The NHS has a problem with cancer survival rates but naming and shaming GPs won’t help”, July 1) could have been my daughter’s.

Had her general practitioner been more aware of the “suspicious symptoms” which she presented to him four or five times and had she been referred for testing, she might have had a chance of survival.

Had the out-of-hours hospital doctor had more imagination than to say “I can feel a lump, you’re constipated”, her chances might have been greater.

The statistics of which Dr Porter is so wary represent lives, and surely a life saved is worth many unnecessary tests.

GPs should be accountable, and the public should be aware of how well they are performing. Earlier diagnosis, using the tools available over the weekend and for longer weekday hours, would in the long run avoid costly last-ditch attempts at care. The “unnecessary tests” reassure far more effectively and quickly than repeated visits to a GP.

The survival rate for pancreatic cancer, from which my daughter died, has hardly changed for 40 years, with only 4 per cent of the 8,000 people diagnosed each year surviving more than five years.

When are things going to change? We do not need the complacency of GPs worried about statistics, but concern by GPs to save and protect the lives in their care.

Celia Goodman


Sir, Mark Porter’s defence of GPs in the face of yet another secretary of state for health who seeks to blame others for “mistakes” and shortcomings without taking responsibility, will be applauded by his peers but misses the point.

In the case of pancreatic cancer — which suffers from almost universally late diagnosis, few treatment options and has an exceptionally high mortality rate — GPs tell us they need help understanding the disease.

In this sense, a number of groups are at fault. The GPs for not coming forward and seeking a better understanding, secondary-care surgical and medical oncologists for not making more opportunities available for GPs to learn, the NHS bureaucracy for not being able to think outside the box, and politicians for, well, getting in the way.

Although pancreatic cancer in the UK is only the tenth most common cancer it is the fifth (soon to be the fourth) biggest killer. The average survival time post diagnosis is six months, and fewer than 4 per cent of those diagnosed survive for five years, and those two statistics have hardly changed in 40 years, unlike the (fantastic) improvements in the statistics for breast cancer, leukaemia and some other

Pancreatic cancer is a prime example of where GPs need help, not shaming, but health professionals continue to stay in their bunkers.

For pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones the issue is rarely about any meaningful period of survival, but earlier diagnosis will give families more time together in a situation where days and weeks are like gold dust.

More leadership is required.

Gerald Coteman

The Elizabeth Coteman Fund (Pancreatic Cancer Support & Research), Cambridge

There is much important and detailed work to be done before any referendum on the UK’s EU membership

Sir, Any referendum about UK membership of the EU must be preceded by a rational discussion of what will need to be negotiated between the UK and the EU in the event of a vote to secede.

Many of the matters for negotiation will be technical. For example, what is the UK’s liability to contribute to EU employees’ pensions (a number of formulae are possible)? What would be the status of “UK fisheries” (would non-British licensed vessels be excluded)? More importantly, what about UK suppliers’ access to the EU market? There would need to be controls of factors such as state aid otherwise EU producers might face unfair competition from unduly state-aided UK producers.

The critical question is what concessions would be exacted from the UK to achieve a level playing field?

For example, the UK, even if no longer a member of the EU, might have to comply with EU regulations if British producers were not to be lumped with producers in “third countries” generally. Or would it be better to bite that bullet rather than to remain bound by the excessive regulation that had, hypothetically, prompted UK exit. Nor would the UK be able to influence the drafting of future regulations from within the EU.

The sooner this preparation work in advance of a referendum on EU membership is set in hand, the better.

Sir Jeremy Lever

All Souls College, Oxford

Which historical event inspired the composition of the American national anthem?

Sir, Of the programme O Say Can You See about the US national anthem you say (radio preview, June 28) it was written about “a bungled British attempt on the White House”. I believe that it was actually written about the bombardment of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. The British attempt on the White House in the same war was far from bungled.

Nigel Jones


Opinions differ on who may be described as the first truly Asian member of the Westminster parliament

Sir, David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre (1808-51) was not the “first Asian MP” (June 30). He had German, Scottish and Indian blood and an English great-grandfather. The first Indian MP was Dadabhai Naoroji elected in 1892 for Finsbury Central.

Dr Kusoom Vadgama

Michael Blacker

Indo-British Heritage Trust

Should housebuilding be allowed on greenbelt land, or should developers use up brownfield sites first?

Sir, Apropos the leading architects’ request to build on the green belt (report, July 2), housebuilding on brownfield sites is difficult, time consuming and costly, and is not all about profit.

It is hard to justify the contention of Paul Miner, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, that building in the green belt is unnecessary when the built environment is only about 11 per cent of the whole.

Rather than upholding the green belt more strongly as he suggests, which is creating economic strife and strangling first-time buyers’ ability to set up home, consideration should be given to a measured release of green-belt land.

Robert Wolton

Bransgore, Dorset


SIR – It is hard to meet anyone who knows why Jean-Claude Juncker has got the European Union’s “top job”.

The unelected European Commission has a monopoly on proposing all EU law, which it does in secret. Its proposals go for still-secret negotiation in the Council of Permanent Representatives, composed of more bureaucrats from member states, and then for rubber-stamping to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

Mr Juncker’s Commission can also issue “regulations” that are automatically binding in all EU countries. It is thus the originator of all EU law, subject only to that engine of “ever closer union”, the Court of Justice at Luxembourg. National parliaments are irrelevant in the whole of this process. Of course: they caused all those nasty wars.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (Ukip)
London SW1

SIR – As Ukip’s success in the European elections showed, Mr Juncker’s federalist agenda is unacceptable to the British electorate.

Yet David Cameron is now saying that “Britain’s drive for European reform remains on track”. It is high time he realised that there is no more appetite for such posturing. His most honourable course of action would be to call an in/out referendum without delay, and certainly before the next general election.

Max Ingram
Cénac-et-Saint-Julien, Aquitaine, France

SIR – Listening to Mr Cameron reminds me of a proverb recorded by Jonathan Swift: “Promises and pie-crusts are made to be broken.”

Keith Moore
Yoxford, Suffolk

Productivity in the pub

SIR – Employers are not making adequate provision for their ever-more-flexible workforce (report, June 30), who are spending hours each week “working” in pubs and coffee shops.

The local coffee shop might provide an occasional alternative for home workers, but it is ludicrous to think that such environments are conducive to being productive or professional. Also, employers are still responsible for the health and safety of their staff, wherever they are.

We are being approached by a variety of partners – from motorway service area operators to retailers and banks – to help them set up a new breed of drop-in work hub that offers flexible workers a proper alternative to noisy cafés.

John Spencer
UK CEO, Regus
London W2

Postless office

SIR – I arrived at Oakham post office to send my letters last week to discover that it doesn’t have a post box (the nearest is 100 yards down the road).

Can the Post Office really have started to reduce costs by removing post from its business plan?

Katy Byron
Braunston, Rutland

Alight, going out

SIR – Recently, when our train was held up at Clapham Junction, the guard advised us to “detrain” (Letters, June 30). When were railway passengers last invited to “alight”?

Patricia Nice
Tilford, Surrey

SIR – It is futile to rubbish the American habit of verbing everything.

Bob Dick
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Risks of online banking

SIR – I feel that Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has oversimplified the Government’s plans to place key public services online.

Many of us are sceptical about conducting our banking and financial transactions online, and it is no wonder: if hackers can hack into 10 Downing Street and the US Capitol, what chance do ordinary members of the public have in protecting their own computers?

My own computer was hacked into recently. Had I been using it for internet banking and other such transactions I dread to think how much it would have cost me. This incident alone has convinced me that it would be foolhardy for me to bank online or accept any financial services offered by the Government until security protection can be guaranteed.

Beryl Ferrers-Guy
Southwick, West Sussex

English without tears

SIR – You report that Michael Morpurgo, the children’s author, has encouraged teachers to cry when reading emotional stories to their young pupils. This seems a poor idea.

When at school, children want security. They want to know that their teachers are in control of their feelings, not indulging them. A teacher who appears to be giving way to their emotions disturbs very young children. It also, I am afraid to say, invites older ones to manipulate situations in order to make their teachers cry.

I have found that young people, unless very damaged, do not need to be told how to feel.

Jane Gamble
Halifax, West Yorkshire

Sober contemplation

SIR – I have just purchased a six-pack of Beck’s Blue non-alcoholic beer. The beer comes with a warning label: “Please enjoy Beck’s Blue responsibly”.

Can anyone explain how it is possible to drink non-alcoholic beer irresponsibly?

Steve Frampton
Waterlooville, Hampshire

Having a blast

SIR – Never mind scrapping Boris Johnson’s water cannons (Letters, July 1): I’d ask the mayoral candidates if I could play with one.

Nigel Griffiths
London NW4

Only a poor sport would pump his fist in tennis

SIR – It seems a pity that some Wimbledon players feel the need to celebrate almost every point with a distinctly aggressive clenched-fist gesture (Letters, July 1).

In the Tsonga/Djokovic match on Monday I was disappointed to see Djokovic claiming such victories, even when the point was won on an unforced error. Tsonga, however, was modest throughout.

Tony Wardle
Combe Down, Somerset

SIR – One of the most annoying aspects of Wimbledon is the crowd’s slow handclap each time a review is called to see whether the ball was in or out. What is the point?

John Gray
Tarporley, Cheshire

SIR – BBC One’s lunchtime weather forecast last Monday stated that there was a small chance of showers at Wimbledon that afternoon but any disruption to play would be minimal. Meanwhile, my wife was watching the tennis on BBC Two as the courts were being covered against torrential rain.

Rick Emerson
Bagshot, Surrey

SIR – Centre Court spectators would do well to heed Polonius’s advice in Hamlet.

“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,/But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy:/For the apparel oft proclaims the man.”

Alan Peacock-Johns
London SW14

SIR – I wonder how many parents of the children in the crowds at Wimbledon will be fined for their failure to attend school during term time. Andy Murray’s cousins will be there all week. Or are the rules applied differently in Scottish schools?

Patricia Abbott
Wattisfield, Suffolk

No longer a close fit: French advertisement for a slimming treatment, c. 1895  Photo: Bridgeman Images

6:59AM BST 02 Jul 2014

Comments102 Comments

SIR – I wonder if the fact that many people do not recognise when they are overweight is due, in part, to the clothes we wear.

In the years before Lycra and Spandex were used in just about every fabric, clothes had to be tailored to fit. It became very apparent when a person put on weight because their clothes felt restrictive. Many people did not have the money to buy a larger size and they did not have the disposable attitude towards clothing that prevails today.

A friend of mine, who has for many years worn casual stretchy clothes thinking she was a size 12, was horrified upon trying on a formal outfit for a wedding to discover that in fact she was nearer a size 20.

With two thirds of the population classed as overweight, people have fewer and fewer opportunities to make visual comparisons with their own shape. No wonder so many people are in denial about their size.

Susan Walker
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – Tony Narula (Letters, June 10) draws attention to the early retirement of doctors from the NHS. I also retired early, aged 59, as did the majority of my GP contemporaries in this part of Lancashire.

Nobody from any NHS body asked me why and I suspect the same to be true of my colleagues. I believe that the loss of considerable numbers of experienced doctors has been brought about by political meddling, endless reorganisation and attempts to reinvent the wheel. Experience counts for so much as a GP – far more than any protocol or guideline.

Dr Iain M Hall
Whittle-le-Woods, Lancashire

SIR – I recently received an email with a 39-page attachment for me to complete demanding my “urgent action” so that I can be reapproved to continue as a GP trainer, a job that I have been doing for several years. It will take me the best part of a day to assemble the evidence requested, which includes, among other things, a copy of my equal opportunities training course certificate as well as our anti-bullying policy. More bureaucracy, more paperwork, less time spent training GPs and less time with patients.

If intelligent, independent-minded professionals are continually exposed to this meaningless form-filling, the result is cynicism and demotivation. I know of at least one experienced GP trainer who will cease training because of this.

Dr Jackie Lodge
Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire

SIR – You describe how the acute shortage of GPs affects A&E departments and patients. In spite of this shortage, the Government continues with its policy of moving treatment from hospitals into the community. This will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, should step in and stop the NHS moving treatment out of hospitals, where it works reasonably well, before the system collapses completely. His priority should be to fix the GP problem before adding to their workload.

Tony Ellis
Northwood, Middlesex

SIR – Dr Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing (Letters, June 30) argues for the NHS to be “free at the point of use”. But would not charging for the many missed appointments be consistent with this principle? Charging at the point of non-use would be a deterrent against the wasting of scarce resources.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – The NHS’s out-of-hours service could be improved if more funding was devoted to it. General practice accounts for 8.4 per cent of the NHS budget while providing 90 per cent of all patient contact: it is as cheap as chips.

Tim Crouch
Eastcombe, Gloucestershire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The deaths of three Israeli teenagers (murders we condemn) received front-page coverage in your paper (July 1st). Such human suffering and loss of life is always deplorable and deserves front-page coverage.

What we fail to understand is why the regular abductions and murders of young Palestinians by the Israeli army are denied the same attention.

Many questions come to mind as we read the article by Mark Weiss. His account gives the impression that these events took place in a sovereign territory and not in an occupied territory under full Israeli army control.

Moreover, and throughout his article, Mr Weiss omits to mention the words “occupied” and “settlers”, nor does he make reference to the two weeks of harsh collective punishment imposed on the entire Palestinian population as the Israeli army searched for the three teenagers. In those two weeks, nine Palestinians were killed, two died of heart attack when the army raided their houses, tens were injured, many were orphaned, 640 were arrested, and families saw their homes demolished by the Israeli army.

Surely a prestigious newspaper such as The Irish Times should endeavour to be as impartial and objective as possible. This could be achieved by having journalists actually venture into the occupied West Bank, thus relaying the two sides of the story and its consequences for people on both sides of the Separation Wall (built by Israel within the occupied West Bank and declared illegal by the International Court of Justice exactly 10 years ago).

Security and peace cannot be achieved by force and violence. It is only by ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and implementing a two-state solution that we will have a fair chance for peace.

We hope that the subsequent abduction and murder, this morning, by Israeli settlers of Mohammad Hussein Abukhdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from Jerusalem whom they tortured before burning his body, will receive the same attention. – Yours, etc,


Ambassador of the

State of Palestine

to Ireland,

Mount Merrion Avenue,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – It was with some surprise, and not a little disbelief, that I read in your editorial (“A cycle of violence”, July 2nd) “the Israeli government’s narrative on Hamas as irredentist, anti-Jewish terrorists”.

Alas, it is not the Israeli government’s narrative; Hamas is internationally recognised as a terrorist organisation, including by the European Union, of which Ireland is a member. Even Hamas itself would freely admit to being Islamist in its ideology, motivated by extreme anti-Semitism, devoted to violence so as to achieve its aims, and aspiring to annihilate the state of Israel.

Your editorial implies that there is some mysterious means of bringing Hamas in from the cold, into joining the peace process, and here again one detects the Northern Ireland analogy of “you must talk to your enemies”.

Alas, the model is inapplicable. Hamas is not a secular, rational actor as was the republican movement in the Northern Ireland conflict; it is a religious militant cult with a radical agenda, and its leadership, even recently, constantly reiterates war to the death against Israel and Jews everywhere. You cannot talk to people who want to kill you and try to do so on a daily basis.

Hamas eschews the central theme of the Northern Ireland peace process – parity of esteem – because it denies the right of Jews to even exist.

You also refer to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu as “hawkish” in his approach to the Palestinian question. Has one already forgotten that it was under Mr Netanyahu that Israel released from jail over a thousand terrorists in recent years, so as to secure the release of Gilad Shalit and as a goodwill gesture in the most recent peace initiative?

Since 2009 Mr Netanyahu has been speaking about two states for two peoples living in peace with each other. When have you ever heard President Abbas speaking about peace between Israel and the future Palestinian state? I think Mr Abbas is now beginning to realise what a dreadful mistake he made in joining hands with Hamas, however tentatively.

When Mr Abbas realises that peace with Israel is not a zero-sum game and that the only way to achieve peace is by dialogue rather than by grandstanding at the UN and constantly criticising Israel, maybe there will be grounds for optimism. – Yours, etc,


Ambassador of Israel,

Pembroke Road, Dublin 4.

Sir, – A report on how to advance pluralism in Irish education has said that “Crucifixes in schools should be joined by other religious artefacts” as a way of “celebrating diversity” (“Call for school crucifixes to be joined by artefacts from other religions”, July 2nd). Is now not a good time to just remove religious iconography from schools? That way everyone is included because nobody is left out. Specific religious indoctrination belongs at home and in churches, not in schools.

Apart from that, where does the list of “other artefacts” end? The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarians, worship His Noodliness. Can they now rightfully expect to see their artefact, the colander, to appear on school walls too? – Yours, etc,


Coppinger Glade,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The proposal to include other religious symbols in schools is a fudge. While there is nothing wrong with learning about other religions and cultures, tokenism is not the solution. There should no be religious symbols in schools, other than those that individuals choose to wear themselves.

The Catholic Church just cannot let go of the symbolic power of a crucifix in every school, or indeed every classroom. Although, during my time at St Kevin’s CBS (1980s) in Ballygall Road, the statue of Mary did little to impress church values on me. The class used to play games with it, throwing the duster at it to knock if off its perch and then running to catch it before it hit the ground. Not exactly what the Brothers had in mind.

The Catholic Church should just remove its symbols from our schools and not give students extra symbols for target practice. – Yours, etc,


Calle 12,



Sir, – The 40 pages of the progress report on the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector missed a key point. Jesus of Nazareth left his followers a sign for all to “know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35) and it wasn’t an artefact. It was that they “love one another”. – Yours, etc,


National Team Leader,


Clarinda Park North,

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Fr Joe McVeigh, in his letter on women priests (July 2nd), gives the same opinion, in almost exactly the same words, that brought the heavy hand of the Vatican down on me.

Joe can expect a letter from Cardinal Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, any day now.

Except, of course, it won’t come directly to him and there will be no signature! – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – I have noticed in recent days that the issue of women priests in the Catholic Church has returned to this page.

The present position espoused by church authorities arose out of a mixture of fundamentalist interpretations of scripture, structures of society that were based on the superiority of the male, and attitudes that sexual needs were signs of human weakness. These positions are no longer acceptable to society and adherence to them amounts to blatant discrimination rather than theological insight.

However, I also believe that the use of scripture to oppose the present position regarding both women priests and married priests is an exercise in futility because the church authorities are not for changing and all the arguments in the world will not change that.

I should like to propose that insofar as church authorities continue to exclude women and married persons from the priesthood, they owe it to us to explain what their plans are for when they run short of priests to serve us.

Will our children who wish to have their marriages take place within the context of Mass be obliged, as in some countries, to marry in communal marital ceremonies at times allocated to suit the priests’ availability?

Do the church authorities plan that funerals will no longer be blessed during Mass but coffins brought to church will be given a simple blessing by a lay person or deacon appointed to do so?

I choose these two examples because I believe that the majority of Catholics in Ireland still take it for granted their marriages and funerals will take place within the context of Mass.

Let the bishops direct the priests to explain what they have planned for the faithful when they run short of unmarried male priests. Are Pope Francis and the bishops thinking ahead or are they just saying “so be it” to whatever happens? – Yours, etc,


Orchardville Gardens,


Sir, – It has been a Government staple during this administration to repeat the words “reform” and “change” as if their mere repetition imbues them with some concrete meaning that precludes further discussion and justification.

Few Cabinet members embraced this tactic as much as Ruairí Quinn did during his stewardship of the Department of Education, when he persistently sought to stymie meaningful and specific debate by resorting to his specious mantra about others “fearing change”.

In light of that recurring theme in his utterances, the irony of the Minister’s decision to announce his own departure rather than accept the outcome of the imminent changes in Cabinet will not be lost on many.

It brings to mind the old Woody Allen quip, “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”. – Yours, etc,


Springlawn Close,


Dublin 15 .

Sir, – I note that the Revenue Commissioners have perfected the collection of the local property tax by attaching the salaries and wages of defaulters (“Wage deductions kick in for property tax defaulters”, July 2nd).

Revenue also has powers of attachment of bank accounts and the ability to send warrants to the sheriff to seize goods of defaulters without the necessity of a judgment.

According to the Irish Penal Reform Trust in 2012, there were 8,304 committals for non-payment of fines, including 242 imprisonments for non-payment of fines imposed for not having a TV licence. The average cost in 2012 of imprisonment for each prisoner was €182 per day.

If the collection of fines were delegated to the Revenue these expensive and ineffective incarcerations would significantly decrease. – Yours, etc,


Blarney Street,

Sir, – The Irish Times is to be thanked for its extensive, detailed and sensitive coverage of the death of Dermot Healy (Patsy McGarry and Eileen Battersby, July 1st).

He was an original and daring writer whose work deserves to be more widely known.

I first met Dermot when I was associate director of the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo in the late 1980s.

At some stage in the second week of the summer school, Dermot would appear, declare “you and I need to go for a walk” and lead me away into the magnificent Sligo landscape, where we would walk and talk for hours, before returning me restored to the school.

On one such foray, he brought me to the outermost edge of the Atlantic Ocean to show me the house he had just bought, the outpost where the memoir, novels and poems of the past 25 years would be written.

His death is a great loss. I will console myself this summer by going for a long walk and rereading the great works Dermot has left us. – Yours, etc,


School of English,

Drama and Film,

University College Dublin,


Sir, – Car-owners currently provide a substantial revenue source to the Government, and public transport or cycling are not viable options for many. Retailers and other businesses in the city centre of Dublin will inevitably lose revenue as a result of the move to reduce traffic on the North Quays to one lane to make room for two cycle lanes.

It may be admirable to pursue policies that improve air quality and the environment, but perhaps such policies should be postponed until our retail sector and the economy in general has recovered sufficiently from the recession. The cost of the road works and signage that the planned move would entail could surely be better spent, when it is considered that our health service is in crisis and other essential services have been cut. – Yours, etc,


Stonepark Abbey,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Further to Fintan O’Toole’s “Fr Michael Cleary story not up for revisionism” (Opinion & Analysis, July 1st), as a young student I had the opportunity to hear Fr Cleary preach on a number of occasions. He was funny, but also inspirational both in terms of having a real sense of social justice, particularly for the less well off, and a passion for being a priest.

It is a shame that unlike others who left the priesthood because of the confines of celibacy, Fr Cleary lived a double life, no doubt because of his love of ministering as a priest. – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Gerry Adams bemoans the fact that yesterday was Sinn Féin’s first official opportunity since the 2010 election to raise with the British prime minister the party’s concerns about the lack of recent progress in the peace process (“Adams says lack of formal meeting with Cameron ‘deplorable’”, July 2nd).

However, if Sinn Féin chose to provide proper democratic representation for all its constituents in Northern Ireland, by taking its seats in Westminster, the party would have ample opportunity, on a weekly basis, to make its concerns known directly to David Cameron. – Yours, etc,


Haddington Park,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I suspect a serious case of spellcheck malfunction during the editing of the report on the hurling championship (“Guiney and Wexford happy to take on the best”, July 2nd). We met Wexford’s Liam Dune and Jack Guinea, Kilkenny’s Ceiling Buckley, Galway’s Early Tannin, Dublin’s Alan Microbe and Clare’s Dodge Collins.

Keep it going! This is more fun than the real thing! Looking forward to Heavy Shovellin, Anthony Gnash, et al. – Yours, etc,


Stradbally North,


Co Galway.

Sir, – If Eamon Gilmore were to become the next European commissioner from Ireland, presumably it would be Brussels’ way instead of Frankfurt’s way? – Yours, etc,




Dublin 14.

Sir, – If Phil Hogan and Eamon Gilmore both want to be European commissioner, why not appoint the two of them and let them share the job? – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – Vincent Devlin (July 2nd) is concerned that Minister of Health James Reilly’s suggested price of €20 for 20 cigarettes will lead to an exodus to Northern Ireland for supplies and a drop in tax revenue.

What he forgets is the tax on the fuel used in getting there. Not a loss, just a different source of revenue.

A better way would be to make cigarettes only available in packs of 100, as a €50 or €100 note for a pack would concentrate the minds of even the most diehard of smokers. – Yours, etc,




Irish Independent:

After prolonged deliberation, the thrust of the interim recommendations from the Oireachtas Justice Committee on garda oversight seem absurd.

They suggest inter alia that the Garda Commissioner should be accountable to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission; that appointments to and membership of the proposed Garda Siochana Authority be the exclusive responsibility of the Public Appointments Service, without government or ministerial involvement, and that all senior roles in An Garda Siochana should be the responsibility of the proposed authority.

They further suggest that this authority could adequately discharge a duty of public accountability and transparency through an annual report to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The ancient Latin expression ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ means ‘who guards the guards themselves’. This ought to mean in a sovereign democratic republic that citizens are thoroughly safeguarded against abuse from those placed in positions of power or trust.

The moral authority of a Garda Ombudsman rests in the integrity of that office based on its independence. How could integrity and independence be sustained if the Garda Commissioner were to report to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman, without the disgusting charge being levied loudly that the guards are investigating complaints against themselves?

The suggestion that the Public Appointments Service become responsible for recruiting and appointing the membership of a Garda Authority is nonsense.

If the Oireachtas Justice Committee considers that public accountability of this new quango could be achieved through the medium of an annual report delivered many months after a year-end to the Houses of the Oireachtas, what will they propose next? An account of Ladies’ Day at the Galway Races delivered the following Easter?

The commissioner should be appointed by the President, accountable to the public and report to the Justice Minister.

Finally, if it is the avowed intention of minister Fitzgerald to advertise the position of Garda Commissioner internationally, would she consider it appropriate to invite applications only from Irish citizens, for the sake of recognising that this sovereign independent nation does have unique security considerations and it is not a minor backwater of some mightier jurisdiction?





The restatement of the obvious is the first duty of an intelligent person. This quote by Orwell is key in the battle to defend marriage, as the Government has announced plans to redefine it.

This is the same Government whose own Justice Minster resigned, so perhaps it is hardly the best group to alter one of the core concepts of society.

No doubt instead a rainbow range of groups will seek to rely on hand-waving and emotive cliches: failing that, given the form displayed by their fellow travellers in other countries, they will seek to demonise their opponents by an avalanche of accusations of phobic comments as well as seeking to deny employment to anyone openly defending traditional marriage, as has happened in the United States.

However, this is now an opportunity for the people of Ireland to roll back the tirade of progressive and re-emphasise support for the family, the teleological crux marriage, which has been declining across all Europe.

Hence a vote against this government proposal will be a vote to send a message to support actual marriage.





In response to Brendan Lynch’s letter (Letters, June 28), which claims that Uber taxis are ‘not regulated’, I would like to point out that, to the contrary, we operate legally in Ireland under a Dispatch Licence. Uber abides fully by all regulations in all of the markets in which it operates, and has done since its launch. Meanwhile, the amazing reception we have had from Dubliners shows the great local support for the service across the city.





Unfortunately, various elements on both sides of the public discourse on next spring’s same sex marriage referendum have turned from arguing the merits of amending the Constitution yet again to discussing what exactly they should call it to have the best, most propagandising effect on voters.

From the potentially offensive ‘Gay Marriage’ (and worse) on one side, to the complete misnomers of ‘Marriage Equality’ and just ‘Marriage’ on the other, we can see the debate taking a turn for the worst before our eyes.

Let’s just call it what it is: a referendum on whether or not to allow people of the same sex to marry, or the same sex marriage referendum.

In describing it like that, I don’t think I can be accused of inaccuracy, offensiveness or selective wording.





I refer to a recent decision by the Environment Minister to cease providing funding for the National Advocacy Service for Deaf people under the aegis of the Irish Deaf Society. The decision is short-sighted and defies logic. Indeed, as one of the original creators of this service, I am baffled and horrified.

The decision was apparently based on a criteria that obliged voluntary organisations to compete with each other for vital funding, rendering any uniqueness that a service may have irrelevant.

This particular service is run by peer advocates and is a space where deaf people can receive various services through their first language – Irish Sign Language.

The decision will result in a greater sense of helplessness and dependence upon the State among deaf people, despite the Government professing that this is something it wishes to decrease. In addition, last January, the Government rejected the Irish Sign Language Bill that came before Seanad Eireann. Minister for State with responsibility for Disability, Kathleen Lynch, delivered a statement on behalf of the Government explaining that it could not support the bill as “we need to put the service in place before we put the legislation in place”.

Given this most recent decision, the statement seems hollow and an empty promise to many of us in the Deaf community. I hope that the minister will heed this appeal and act in a favourable manner.





Eamon Delaney’s article (Irish Independent, July 1) gets to the core of everything that is wrong with modern Ireland.

We have created a society where being honest and working hard is punished – in order to pay for those who are overpaid and unaccountable, or those who choose not to work.

Meantime, who should I, as a working taxpayer, vote for? None of the big three parties cares about us, and SF will never get my vote.





President Higgins, in the course of a recent speech, remarked that “you’ll know if you’re notable”. So take note folks, some of us are clearly more equal (sorry, notable) than others.



Irish Independent


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